Po­lice un­der fire over ho­mo­sex­u­als at­tacks

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

taken from two neigh­bour­ing set­tle­ments and wells up with tears when she talks about be­ing torn away from her five chil­dren.

They were marched to Mayom County. Nyabena was held in Ko­tong, a strong­hold of Ma­jorGen­eral Matthew Pul­jang, com­man­der of a tribal Bul Nuer mili­tia aligned with South Su­dan’s army, the SPLA, which has been bat­tling rebels since De­cem­ber 2013.

From April to July this year the SPLA and Pul­jang’s mili­tia car­ried out an of­fen­sive that United Na­tions in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­scribed as a “scorched earth pol­icy” in an Au­gust re­port. NAIROBI — Ho­mo­pho­bic mobs have re­peat­edly at­tacked les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der (LGBT) peo­ple in Kenya but po­lice are un­will­ing to even at­tempt to bring the per­pe­tra­tors to jus­tice, rights groups said on Mon­day.

Ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is taboo in al­most all African coun­tries and is pun­ish­able by up to 14 years in jail in Kenya.

Vi­o­lence against LGBT peo­ple is com­mon in the east African na­tion, but vic­tims fear re­port­ing hate crimes to the po­lice who, in turn, of­ten refuse to pur­sue their cases.

There have been at least six in­ci­dents since 2008 of mob vi­o­lence against LGBT mi­nori­ties on the coast, Hu­man Rights Watch (HRW) and PEMA Kenya, a com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tion in the coastal city of Mom­basa, said in a re­port.

“Re­li­gious lead­ers have of­ten been at the fore­front of in­cit­ing vi­o­lence against LGBT peo­ple,” Neela Ghoshal, a re­searcher with HRW, told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion, re­fer­ring to both Chris­tians and Mus­lims.

“The gov­ern­ment needs to do more to pre­vent and re­spond to vi­o­lence against LGBT peo­ple.”

The po­lice res­cued LGBT peo­ple in most of the in­ci­dents but they have not ar­rested any­one for the at­tacks, the re­port said.

It also doc­u­mented sev­eral cases where the po­lice hu­mil­i­ated, dis­missed or re­fused to take state­ments from LGBT peo­ple who tried to re­port crimes, such as gang rape.

“Po­lice are meant to pro­tect ev­ery­body, and that is what we do,” Fran­cis Wan­johi, coast re­gional po­lice com­man­der, told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion.

“When we re­ceive any re­port, we must in­ves­ti­gate. That is our job... But again, you do not ex­pect to be pro­tected when you en­gage in crim­i­nal and un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour.”

In Fe­bru­ary, res­i­dents of the coastal tourist towns of Diani and Ukunda led vig­i­lantestyle hunts for gay men af­ter im­ages of men

Fight­ing and flood­ing lim­its ac­cess to large parts of South Su­dan, lead­ing aid work­ers to re­fer to south­ern Unity State as “an in­for­ma­tion black-hole”.

A hu­man rights in­ves­ti­ga­tor said: “No­body knows what’s hap­pen­ing in Mayom County,” where many of the women were taken. One mil­i­tary ex­pert es­ti­mated that “thou­sands of women” were ab­ducted dur­ing the of­fen­sive.

“In all the south­ern Unity coun­ties it’s been the same: those women who es­cape are lucky. Those who don’t are raped and ab­ducted or killed,” said the rights in­ves­ti­ga­tor. “The ab­duc­tion of women en­gaged in sex­ual con­duct were cir­cu­lated on so­cial media.

Two gay men were at­tacked by mobs. One was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal af­ter his chest was slashed by a bro­ken bot­tle.

Days later, he was ar­rested by the po­lice, along with another man. Both were charged with “un­nat­u­ral of­fences”.

Doc­tors con­ducted forced anal ex­am­i­na­tions on them to check for ‘ev­i­dence’ of ho­mo­sex­ual con­duct, the re­port said. The case is on­go­ing. About 50 men liv­ing in the area fled fol­low­ing the ar­rests.

“This par­tic­u­lar case has re­ally scared the com­mu­nity and has made them fear there could be a grow­ing wave of ar­rests, par­tic­u­larly fol­low­ing what’s hap­pen­ing in Uganda and Nige­ria,” Ghoshal said.

“Al­most ev­ery­where in sub-sa­ha­ran Africa, there is some de­gree of back­lash right now against the... grow­ing and in­creas­ingly vo­cal LGBTI rights move­ment.”

Uganda and Nige­ria passed tough anti-gay leg­is­la­tion in 2014 although Uganda’s law was later over­turned. — Reuters seems to be sys­tem­atic. It might be for a day, or longer, or for­ever.”

Those who es­caped re­count their sto­ries with numb, quiet voices. Night­mares plague some who wake up ter­rorised, think­ing they are still cap­tive.

Af­ter her ab­duc­tion Nyabena was put to work dur­ing the day, car­ry­ing looted goods and food, col­lect­ing wa­ter and hoe­ing farms. She was guarded con­stantly dur­ing the day and tied up at night with other women.

“When one of the sol­diers wanted to have sex he would come, un­tie us and take us away. When they were fin­ished they would bring you

HRW re­seacher Neela Ghoshal

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